It’s come to our attention that one of this season’s ballyhooed debut novelists goes by the handle Andrew Foster Altschul. Now there are a number of reasons for using the middle name – maybe he’s into trochaic hexameter; maybe he’s from a Spanish-speaking country; maybe he wants to avoid being confused with that other Andrew Altschul (we can sympathize). But it also occurred to us that, given the cover design for Mr. Altschul’s 600-page debut, Lady Lazarus, customers who forgot to bring their glasses to the bookstore may mistake the novel for some new release by David Foster Wallace. Which, marketing-wise, could turn out to be a happy accident. If all goes well, we’d like to see marketing departments rebrand some of their top-selling authors. Coming soon to a book jacket near you:Chuck Kloster Fosterman, Wallace Foster Davidson, Robert Froster, William Faulkster, Jonathan Safran Fo(st)er, E.M. Fo’ster, J.K.F. Rowling, Kaye Foster Gibbons (author of Ellen Gibbons Foster), Alfred, Lord Fostrington, The Marquis de Fosterford, Foster Coraghessan Boyle, Foster Madox Foster, Haldor Foster Laxness, and Fabriel Fostria Farquez?
An uncharacteristically thorough post at Gawker goes in depth on the make up of the current staff of the New Yorker, pointing out that the resurgent magazine under editor David Remnick is staffed by a disproportionate number of writers brought on during the tenure of reviled editor Tina Brown. Interesting stuff.
Writing at home can be distracting and discouraging. It’s hard to concentrate when surrounded by all your stuff. There’s TV to watch, chores to do, people to call on the phone, a dog to walk. Days can go by without a word ever being put on the page. So writers seek refuge outside their homes to write in more conducive settings, a local coffee shop or University library, for example. Writers of a certain stature might attend a writers’ colony hoping for a stretch of forced productivity, while others will fashion their own writers’ colonies by secluding themselves in a rented office to toil away.With this in mind, two enterprising former MFAs in New York City, noting the need so many writers have for a place to write, have created Paragraph Workspace for Writers. As they describe it:Paragraph is a membership organization dedicated to providing an affordable and tranquil working environment for writers of all genres. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.Paragraph was created by writers for writers, with an understanding that writers work best in a quiet, comfortable space away from the hurry and obligation of urban life.For between $80 and $132 a month (depending on length of commitment and level of access) writers can use the space – a decked out 3rd floor apartment on 14th Street – as their own little writing venue. The online application for membership includes space for references, presumably to weed out the crazies. I can think of a few other reasons why this may not work – the more members the group gets, the less worthwhile the space becomes for each individual member; there are hundreds of places in New York that provide the same environment (though perhaps not the 24 hour access), starting with libraries; a writer in need of such a space is not likely to have the disposable income to spend on it – but who knows, maybe it’ll work.
EXT. CITY ALLEYWAY. NIGHT.
Police tape marks the scene. Red and blue lights flash. A young, nervous-looking BEAT COP sees STRUNK and WHITE approaching.
It’s over here, detectives. The body was found about an hour ago.
Use the active voice, rookie.
Oh god, it’s horrible. I feel nauseous.
Unless you mean you’re sickening to contemplate, you mean “nauseated.” Now get out of my crime scene before you puke all over it.
WHITE (inspecting the body)
It’s definitely our guy, Strunk.
The Crossword Killer?
Yeah. And look, he’s getting more confident. This time, he used a pen.
INT. POLICE STATION, POLICE CHIEF’S OFFICE. DAY
The POLICE CHIEF, an older man with his pants perilously slung below a heavy beer belly, yanks open his office door.
Strunk! White! Get your asses in here!
STRUNK and WHITE enter, shooting sidelong glances at each other. Before they can sit, the COMMISSIONER flings a newspaper at them; WHITE clumsily catches it.
Look at this disaster!
WHITE (reading the headlines)
“Police Not Effective as Campus Stalked by Crossword Killer, Student Body in Terror.” Oh, Christ, what a mess.
You’re damn right it is! I just got off the phone with the mayor, and let me tell you, she is not happy!
I can see why. An evasive denial rather than a definite assertion, the passive voice — haven’t the copy writers even taken basic composition? And that gruesome phrase, “student body”! My god! “Studentry” is a much more elegant term! Or simply “students.”
I’m not talking about the goddamn grammar, I’m talking about this investigation! If you two don’t make an arrest soon, I’ll have your asses in a sling!
Don’t you mean “slings,” Chief? I mean, if asses is plural–
Get the hell outta my office!
INT. DINER. NIGHT.
Rain trickles down the plate glass windows of the seedy diner. WHITE idly spins his lucky blue pencil on the tabletop as he talks. STRUNK listens, sipping coffee.
It was my first month on the job, you know? I was young. I thought I could make a difference. And then we got the call…some kids had been screwing around on an overpass, smoking weed, spraying graffiti. This one kid — he couldn’t have been more than 13 — he was dangling way over the edge, trying to write “NYPD SUCKS ITS OWN DICK.” At least, that’s what his friends said he was going to write. He only made it as far as the “its.” He was reaching, trying to add an apostrophe, when he fell. The kid…his mother said he wanted to go to culinary school. Traffic was heavy that night. Lots of trucks. That damn, unnecessary apostrophe. By the time they scraped him off the highway, there was barely enough left of him to fill a shoebox.
WHITE begins to sob quietly. STRUNK hesitates, then reaches out and takes WHITE’S hand, stopping the movement of the pencil.
It’s okay. It’s okay, partner. Next time you could omit needless words, but it’s okay.
EXT. ROOFTOP. NIGHT.
The CROSSWORD KILLER holds both WHITE and PRISCILLA at gunpoint at the ledge, while STRUNK holds his own gun on the KILLER, uncertain whether to shoot. WHITE, barely on his feet, presses his hand to a wound in his side.
What’s it gonna be, Strunk? If you shoot me, I’ll still be able to kill one of them! You can’t save them both! So what’ll it be — your partner, five letters, Walter _____ of Breaking Bad? Or your recently reconciled ex-wife, nine letters, beloved of Miles Standish? Who do you choose? Who?
It’s “whom,” motherfucker.
STRUNK fires between the KILLER’S eyes. He tumbles off the rooftop, screaming. STRUNK rushes to WHITE and PRISCILLA. She embraces him, sobbing, while STRUNK helps WHITE to his feet. WHITE grasps STRUNK’S hand forcibly.
Thanks, partner. Standing on that ledge, staring into those crazy eyes, life never seemed so precious.
Dangling participle, partner.
I’m getting too old for this.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Today, while I was driving, I caught a review of Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle on Fresh Air. It was a very favorable review (in fact the book has been getting great reviews in most places). I would love to read the book and comment on it here, but I can’t forsee myself getting to it any time soon. And therefore, I won’t get to talk about it here. The stack of books is just too high. Yet I happen to have an advance copy of Triangle, and I hate to see it gather dust. So here is my idea: whoever among you would like to read this book and put together a little review or comment or whatever on it for this site, email me and I will send you the book. Then I was thinking, I am lucky enough to have access to advance copies of books from time to time, and wouldn’t it be great if I could pass them along to people so they can write a little something which I can then post on The Millions. It sounds like good fun to me. So… if you would like to review Triangle for The Millions email me and I will send you the book. (By the way Triangle is about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, an unconscionable tragedy that proved to be a watershed event in improving working conditions [and especially working conditions for women] in America.) As I get other new books, I will offer them up for review as well. Also, if you happen to have access to review copies of books, and would like to help stock my guest review program, well, that would be really sweet.
Most of you have probably read it, or at least heard about it: Sasha Frere-Jones in the New Yorker posits that the cultural inter-borrowing that long underpinned the vibrancy of American music has fallen by the wayside in the current era of mopey indie rock (I mostly agree). The essay is good – though-provoking – but what has really rounded it out has been his series of responses, on his blog, to the various letters he received – 1, 2, 3, 4 – which have turned his effort into the sort of bull session that regularly happens among music fans.In a similar vein, in this case in the world a film, One-Way Street posits that we have a problem we never expected: “an American cinema that’s too good.” The argument is fairly convincing. But I can’t help but think that some arguments to the contrary might turn the post into a bull session as intriguing as the one Frere-Jones has curated at the New Yorker.
One of the guests on Fresh Air today was former cop named Edward Conlon, a Harvard grad and fourth generation NYPD officer who used to pen an anonymous column in the New Yorker. Now he has a new book called Blue Blood in which he recounts his life as a beat cop. It looks to be a literary take on macabre subject matter. Speaking of which, Ian McEwan, most recently the author of Atonement, a book adored by both readers and critics, has revealed some details about his forthcoming book. According to this Reuters story, it appears as though McEwan will return to the more visceral subject matter of his earlier novels with a book that centers on the life of a brain surgeon. He will finish it “within months.” This new McEwan book will almost certainly be reviewed by the New York Times Book Review, where, after much skeptical anticipation, Sam Tanenhaus has been appointed as editor. As beatrice.com pointed out yesterday, some in the literary world are skipping the grace period and sticking with the skepticism, cf. David Kipen’s San Francisco Chronicle piece. This changing of the guard, you may remember, was a topic a few months back here at The Millions.